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Nathan Evans is not only a TikTok sensation, but is also the voice behind the recent shanty craze that has taken off globally over the past few weeks. Releasing the hit single ‘Wellerman’, his music soon hit the charts. We managed to reach out to Nathan Evans to speak to him about his thoughts regarding his breakthrough.
First of all, congratulations on the single!
Thank you! *laughs* it’s just so catchy.
It definitely is, and it’s very different. What drew you towards singing sea shanties specifically?
So I’d been on TikTok since last January, and someone had left a comment in July saying “could you do a sea shanty called Leave Her Johnny? I think you’d be really good at it.” And so I went away, recorded that song and put it up on my TikTok; and the reception was amazing. Everybody loved it and the comments started coming in about doing different sea shanties like Drunken Sailor, The Scotsman, Wellerman. So all of these came in and I just went from there.
Are sea shanties the type of music you want to keep on performing, or are you interested in releasing music within other genres too?
So I’ve been singing since I was six and I’ve been playing guitar since I was eight; I’ve taught myself how to play piano and I write my own music as well. I want to be able to release my own music. Influences and inspirations of mine are like Dermot Kennedy, Ed Sheeran, Lewis Capaldi, Anne Marie, Jess Glynne. So they’re all kind of singer-songwriters, they like to convey emotion and tell a story in their songs; but they can also do pop music or folk music – they can do a bit of everything and that’s kind of how I like to sing and how I like to write my songs. So hopefully in the future, you’ll hear a bit of both: they won’t all just be sea shanties, and they won’t all just be pop music, it’ll be a wide variety of lots of different stuff.
You’ve talked a little bit about your musical inspirations, but what kind of music did you grow up listening to, and did they influence what you’re releasing now?
Music that I would listen to and stuff that has influenced me from way back then is like Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Scottish folk artists – there was a duo called The Corries, ay just people like that. I used to listen to Queen, my mum and dad loved Jeff Buckley so that was what I grew up listening to.
So when you were posting all of these different covers, did you ever imagine that it would lead you to TikTok fame or even international fame as it has done now?
No, I was just uploading to TikTok because I knew certain people enjoyed it and I had a small following which just kept growing, and that was great! The sole reason I made TikTok and even YouTube in the past, is that I do it for myself anyway so if other people enjoy it then that’s fantastic, but if they don’t then, *shrugs*. I like the process of making the music and doing all of the video editing, so for me it was just that I’m singing and I’m going to be doing this anyway so if other people enjoy it then that’s amazing. I never ever thought “I’m going to upload this and I’m going to get famous and that’s how I’m going to become a superstar.” That was never the thought.
Of all the people that have duetted your sea shanty or covered it, who is the one artist of all of them that really took you by surprise?
Andrew Lloyd-Webber. *Laughs*, when I saw that he’d done a duet with me, I was just like “what is going on?” Insane. And then just the other day, I’d seen one by Brian May, and I was like “that is ridiculous”. Like, somebody needs to wake me up now, I’ve been sleeping for far too long.
That’s incredible! So who would be your ideal artist to work with in the future?
Definitely Ed Sheeran. That has been a question that’s been asked quite a lot, and I’m going to say Ed Sheeran at every opportunity. I’ll mention him as much as possible until he recognises me – whether he just recognises me or he does a song, whatever it is.
I can’t imagine a more different career change from being a postman a few weeks ago to now having released a single that’s hit the charts and pursuing music full time. Can you describe that experience and the transition in a bit more detail?
It’s like being in a whirlwind with how fast everything has happened. It’s very crazy. In the space of two weeks, I went from being a postman and just uploading my TikToks when I got home at night, to having a song with 220 KID x Billen Ted that was in the charts, having a record deal, having management, having a lawyer and having a full team of people behind me and being able to say that I’m now a music artist and a recording artist. It was literally in the space of two weeks so it was incredible, it was genuinely like I was living in a dream.
What are your future aspirations for when the pandemic is over and you can return to some sense of normality? What would be your next steps?
Hopefully we’ll get a tour or some or some nice big gigs on the go, that would be amazing. Until then, I’m going to be working on some singles and music to hopefully be bringing an album out by the end of the year. It’s all very exciting and the future looks good!
And have you performed live before, or has it solely been through YouTube and TikTok?
I’ve performed live before. I’ve done a few gigs for family friends and friends of friends, and it’s been quite big. There’s also been times where I’ve done karaoke presenting for my mum and dad because they used to do that, and they went well. So I’ve done a bit but it’s not been big gigs.
Yeah I’d imagine the next performance you do won’t be quite as small as that anymore!
No, *laughs*, it definitely won’t be in a pub singing to family friends anyway.
What do you think the impact of the attention that your music has received has done to the popularity of sea shanties? Do you think that it’s changed the way that sea shanties are perceived?
Definitely. I think that it’s opened up a whole new audience to sea shanties and a lot more people are like “they’re actually quite good”, whereas before they might not have listened to them or didn’t like the idea of them; but now they actually think they’re really good.
What do you think are the ingredients to a good sea shanty – what should be included in it?
A good hard beat, so just like a banging or a foot stomp. To keep it easy enough to sing and remember the words – it can’t be too complicated because you want as many people to join in as possible. It needs to be nice and simple and upbeat for people to join in.
What is it that you think has connected your work to so many? Sea shanties aren’t necessarily people’s go-to on apps like TikTok, so what do you think has made yours stand out?
I think it’s just sea shanties in general, and that I was gaining a bit of momentum as well. The sea shanties are amazing at this time because everybody’s sad, they’re stuck at home and just want out, they want to meet their friends and just need a bit of enjoyment. I think that this song is exactly that. It brings a smile, it brings togetherness, you can sing along and clap along. It just puts a smile on your face and that’s exactly what everybody’s needing at the minute.
Do you have any advice to students, or just anyone in general on how to get through this time?
Keep going. This will all come to an end very soon. It might feel like it’s forever and like it’s never-ending, but it definitely will end. I was going to stop my TikTok account, make a new one and start from scratch, but then I kept going with the old one, and it was all just around the corner – there was something big. So just keep going because you never know what’s around the corner and you never know what’s going to be coming in the future. So just keep going and keep your chin up.
Nathan Evans’ singles ‘Wellerman’ and ‘Wellerman – 220 KID x Billen Ted Remix’ are available on all major streaming platforms. You can also follow him on TikTok, the app that made it all possible for him @nathanevanss and on YouTube (NathanEvanss).